October 19 was Youth Sunday at Grace Church. Members of our Journey to Adulthood youth group (grades 6-12) were greeters, ushers, readers, and musicians for the service. Following is one of two excellent homilies given that day by senior members of the group.
In thinking about this day, I can honestly say I had absolutely no idea what I would say to all of you. So I put off trying to write this for weeks. I mean, I had school to occupy my focus with testing, band contests, and theatre performances. I wasn’t merely being a lazy teenager; I was busy. But I think most of my hesitation came from one main question. What do I say? What do I say to the people that were at my baptism and said those vows? To the people who were my Sunday school teachers? The people who taught me to love music? What do I say to the people who have been a part of my life from the start, and have watched me grow?
I don’t know if any of you remember this, but for me one of the first times I really came out of my shell for all of you was the Christmas Pageant. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but it was a few years ago. Ms. Julie was the director of the Pageant and I’m pretty sure she wrote all the music for the pageant that year. I was to play King Herod. As King Herod, I had a song and lines and I was supposed to perform them in front of you. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Couldn’t I stay in the choir loft and sing from up there? All of you could stay facing forward and I could pretend you weren’t there. That would work right? No. I had to perform in front of you. And I did. And it was wonderful. You all smiled and afterwards so many people told me I did good job and that they were proud of me. I played Herod for 3 years after that. All of you, are the reason I became confident in myself and became outgoing rather than shy. I never imagined I would be one to volunteer to speak in front of people or sing in front of people. But here I am, because you all showed me I could when I thought otherwise. Which is kind of like what Paul was talking about in his letter to the Thessalonians in our reading today. If you were all metaphorically Paul and I was metaphorically the Thessalonians. You have taught me so much and helped me build the foundation for the spiritual journey I am on. Just like Paul preached the gospel to the Thessalonians in words and actions, you have in your own ways taught me. So many of you have acted as role models, mentors, counselors, friends, and even family throughout my life. You have encouraged me just as Paul wrote to encourage the church in Thessalonia.
I have been a part of the youth group since 6th grade, when it was just Grant and I in the Beginning the Journey class. Over the years I have built so many friendships with kids and adults alike through the program. For our youth retreat at the beginning of this year we split off into smaller groups of 3 or 4 with a variety of ages. My group consisted of Jeff Williams, Nate Boyd, and myself. We talked about a lot of things. Things that troubled us, things we didn’t understand, and good things that had been going on in our lives as well. I had been going through a rough time and it had put me in a sour mood for the weekend. So I told them about it and it felt good to talk about it. They both listened and offered advice. Jeff was especially wonderful. That night, we had a prayer circle after compline where we were to pray aloud for whomever. Jeff said a prayer for me. At that moment, I don’t think I had ever felt as I did. It’s impossible to put into words. But I felt loved and hopeful when I had felt discarded, unwanted, and hopeless.
I could go on and on about all the different the times being a part of the Youth group has made me happy and the different people that have helped me when I needed it, but we would be here all day. I can say that it is people like that have strengthened my faith and made me want to be the same for other people. Because of them, I personally strive to be someone people look up to, are comfortable going to for help, or go to for even spiritual guidance. I myself am still in the early stages of my spiritual journey, but I would never be where I am today without the people of this church who have guided me there.
Returning to the Paul and Thessalonians metaphor, Paul says “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” I, as the Thessalonians, have learned so much from you, Paul, and I feel it is now my job to pass on what I’ve learned to others in youth group, metaphorical Macedonia and Achaia, and aim to be role models for them like you have been for me.
This December, I will be confirmed. At my confirmation I will recite the baptismal covenant for myself to signify my readiness to take on the challenge of my spiritual journey. My spiritual journey began here, with all of you reciting the words I was too young to. You have followed through with those words and have guided me well. You have taught me and cared for me and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to do it. So what do I say to the group of people who have guided me along my spiritual journey?
Thank you. I say Thank you. Thank you so much for all of your support and love you have given to me over the years. For all of the wisdom, life lessons, funny memories, and corny jokes you have imparted. They are priceless and I will cherish them forever. So even though, at the end of this year I will leave for who knows where for college, I will take all you have taught me along. In a way, this is my formal good-bye to all of you even though there are still months ahead. It is also my thank you. It is also my announcement that I am ready. I am ready for my spiritual and actual life’s journey, thanks to you.
Lastly, if you don’t mind, I would like to end with a prayer my mother discovered on our pilgrimage trip this summer.
Let us Pray
God be with thee in every pass
Jesus be with thee on every hill
Spirit be with thee in every stream
Headland and ridge and moor
Each sea and land, each path and meadow
Each lying down, each rising up
In the trough of the waves
On the crest of the billows
Each step of the journey thou goest.
Reading – 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Youth Sunday – October 19, 2014